There has been much talk recently about how independent and state schools can better work together for the benefit of both the schools, their pupils and the communities which they serve.
This was highlighted at a recent Westminster Education Forum by Walter Boyle, headmaster of the groundbreaking first boarding free school, Holyport College, which opened its doors in 2014 and has as its educational sponsor its neighbour Eton College. Walter spoke emphatically about the benefits of the relationship, saying that the partnership has now become a friendship and that, “The boys at Eton think for themselves and believe things are possible, and I want to get a bit of that mind-set into the children at Holyport College and to use the networks that Eton College has to open doors for Holyportians.”
It is this ‘gold standard’ that makes British independent education revered not only in the UK but around the world. I recently went on a whirlwind tour to China which included visiting four cities in seven days, attending mission events, the GETChina expo, strategic partnership meetings and saying hello to the welcoming Gabbitas Education staff in our offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In my opinion, Brand Britain has never been as strong as it is now when it comes to education; the desire to work with us at all levels to transform lives remains constant and we should always be prepared to work collaboratively to improve outcomes.
Indeed, we recently had a super experience with a young Chinese student whose parents wanted her to come to the UK to study because they felt she would benefit from a more liberal daily schedule and the richness of the extra-curricular activities on offer within a good British school and university. Not only did we work hard to support the family to make this happen, but we also worked well together as a team as we were able to arrange a UKiset assessment, entrance exam tuition, school placement advice and a guardian family not only for the period of her sixth form study but also for her initial visits to sit entrance exams at three London schools. We got to know the whole family very well!
And as far as working with Chinese schools is concerned, our executive team (who have often been employed to give consultancy advice to new and established schools in the region) will tell you that there is much we can learn from each other here too. Whilst the Chinese may envy the breadth of our curriculum and the quality of our teaching methods, we should remain in awe of their superior approach to teaching maths across all age groups and their celebration of the benefits of accessing a good education.
Working as a team for the benefit of all is a culture we firmly believe in. But making it happen isn’t always easy, as I noticed when we recently underwent our big move into new offices in St James’s… but we definitely bonded!